Motorist Collides with Cyclist/San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo

In this motor vehicle "accident," SUV driver "didn't see him" on a straight road on a sunny day

Mayor Sam Liccardo (in the blue shirt) on 'Bike to Work Day' in 2016. Photo: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious photostream
Mayor Sam Liccardo (in the blue shirt) on 'Bike to Work Day' in 2016. Photo: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious photostream

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was riding his bike on the 600 block of Salt Lake Drive on New Year’s Day when he was in a collision with a motorist driving an SUV. According to a statement from the Mayor’s staff, the crash occurred at approximately 12:30 p.m. and he “…suffered minor fractures, but his injuries are not considered overly serious. He is currently resting & in good spirits.”

“Overall, San Jose is doing a very good job prioritizing high quality bike infrastructure which is most apparent in their Better Bikeways Network,” added the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director Shiloh Ballard, in an email to Streetsblog. “Sam has been one of the key reasons the City has been able to move quickly and in a cutting edge way. His commitment has empowered an incredible DOT staff to get things going.” In fact, she pointed out, a two-way cycle track was recently installed on Mabury, although it was a distance away from the intersection where the crash occurred.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the driver of the SUV was making a right turn. The paper added that no arrests were made. In a TV interview, a nearby resident who came to assist said the motorist said “he just didn’t see him.”

Is this really a proper way to design an intersection in a residential neighborhood? Image: Google Maps
Mayor Liccardo was reportedly riding on Salt Lake, the street crossing Mabury in this image, when he was struck by a right-turning motorist. Image: Google Maps

If that’s accurate, it’s a little difficult to understand how an attentive motorist who was watching the road and maintaining good situational awareness (and not texting or otherwise distracted) could “not see him” in the middle of the day with such wide-open sightlines as seen above.

The resident also said in the interview that motorists frequently speed through the intersection and that Mabury is a “straight shot” that people “race” down.

As to the reporting, Seattle advocate Glen Buhlmann put it well on Twitter, that media outlets and even the statement from the Mayor’s office continue to pre-judge this crash as an “accident” caused by a collision with a car or SUV, rather than a collision or crash involving a motorist–a person who is responsible for the safe operation of a heavy and frequently lethal machine.

Tweet

Meanwhile, Ballard added that advocates in the area “…look forward to continuing to work with such a great bike leader to further the transformation of San Jose into a city in which people arrive at their destination with a smile.”

Streetsblog will update this story as more information comes in. In the meantime, if you know this stretch of road, or otherwise have any thoughts on this collision, please post below.

  • Sanchez Resident

    I wish a speedy recovery to the Mayor. It seems that the Mayor may be trying to mitigate the negativity towards the death machine operator. That is not a good course of action.

  • Wallaby

    The article does not cite any such effort at mitigation. It merely states that the mayor’s injuries are not serious, which is a statement of fact.

    I notice in the main article photograph that all the cyclists shown are wearing high-vis yellow or orange jackets except the Mayor. Given that the driver says that he could not see the cyclist this might be a timely reminder to always be clearly visible when cycling on a highway, to reduce the risk of such accidents.

  • Dale Danley

    I’m also wishing Mayor Liccardo well in his recovery. What a dreadful way to begin a new year. As an urban cyclist, it’s upsetting to hear about it. Also, I’m not getting a clear picture of what happened. The SF Chronicle reports today that the Mayor was riding his bike eastbound on Mabury (in a bike lane). Judging from Google Street view, the vehicle exiting from Salt Lake might have struck him (Mabury doesn’t have a stop sign but Salt Lake does). Streetsblog reports the whole incident occurred on Salt Lake.

  • LazyReader

    Pffft, I didn’t vote for him

  • LazyReader

    SUV’s are responsible for more and more pedestrian deaths……..though
    that’s quantitative there’s more SUV’s than ever before so naturally
    more likely people would be hit by them. But their poor braking and
    increased mass makes them more dangerous. Cars are lower to the ground,
    so the likely result of a car hitting someone is they get scooped up by
    the aerodynamic hood and slam the windshield. A blocky and higher SUV is
    more likely to slam head on or worse run over the victim.

  • SF Guest

    The SUV driver was subsequently cited for failure to yield right-of-way from not seeing the Mayor riding a bike and cutting him off.

    “The bicyclist was traveling eastbound on Mabury Road in the bike lane approaching Salt Lake Drive. The Toyota stopped at the stop sign and proceeded forward to cross Mabury Road when the bicyclist broadsided the Toyota,” Officer Gina Tepoorten said.

    This collision is not so much a street design issue re lack of protected bike lanes and emphasizes the need for the likes of the SUV driver be more attentive to smaller vehicles and for vulnerable road users not to assume motorists stopped at stop signs see them.

  • p_chazz

    Yes, it was an “accident” which is defined as “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury” unless the motorist intended to hit the mayor. It was also a “collision” which is defined as “an instance of one moving object or person striking violently against another.” These words mean different things. They are not mutually exclusive of each other.

    It’s kind of Orwellian to change the meaning of words to suit your political purpose, however noble your intentions.

  • thielges

    By your definition a drunk driver causing a collision could be called an accident because it was unfortunate, unexpected, and unintentional. I think your definition is in the right direction but could be improved by adding “not easily avoidable”. As in being hit by a meteorite would be an accident. Being hit by a car that had its brakes fail is also an accident. Being hit by an inattentive driver is not.

  • Wallaby

    p_chazz is correct. The word “accident” has a very simple meaning. It is an act that is not deliberate. That’s all.

    So if I did not intend to knock you off your bike then it’s an accident, even if it was totally my fault and I am to blame and it could have been prevented.

    If I engage in road rage and deliberately knock you off your bike, then it is not an accident. If I murder my wife with my car while trying to make it look like an accident, then it is not an accident. See the difference?

    And just because I intended to get drunk does not mean I intended to kill you. Two different things.

  • Wallaby

    On the other hand the driver of a SUV has a better vantage point and can see over regular cars, so one could argue that they can be safer as well.

  • Roger R.

    Thanks Dale. You (and the Chron) may be right. And it is unclear. But at the time I wrote this piece, the mayor’s staff put him on Salt Lake. https://twitter.com/sliccardo/status/1080307026482196480

  • Stuart

    Doesn’t the “expectedly” part already cover that? If someone told me that a drunk driver hit someone, my reaction would definitely not be “Wow, how unexpected!”

    Similarly if the driver was not paying attention while pulling into traffic (and the article makes the argument that there’s reason to question whether they were paying a reasonable amount of attention if they couldn’t see someone in that intersection in broad daylight), then hitting someone wouldn’t really be “unexpected”, so the argument that this is some kind of crazy redefinition of words is silly.

    p_chazz’s narrow definition of “accident” would be viewed as obviously absurd in many other contexts. If someone walked around the city firing a gun in random directions and hurt someone, and all the news stories reported it as an unfortunate accident, I doubt you’d see p_chazz arguing that anyone questioning that description was being “Orwellian”.

  • Wallaby

    Then there are two different accounts of what happened. Your reference above says that the cyclist was “hit by a motor vehicle:”

    But “SF Guest” above cites the attending cop as stating that “the bicyclist broadsided the Toyota.”

    So who hit who?

  • Wallaby

    Whether an incident could reasonably be judged as “expected” with the benefit of hindsight is one hing, and useful for determining blame.

    But whether or not a driver intended to hit a cyclist is orthogonal to that and deals purely with intent and motive.

    It is entirely possible for a crash to be an accident even though it can be deemed as “expected” and the driver is found to be at fault.

    In other words we should ask two questions:

    1) Was the act deliberate? If so, the driver is to blame. Or

    2) If not, then is the driver nevertheless to blame even though he had no intent.

    It’s important to ask both questions and keep separate issues, well, separate.

  • p_chazz

    I think the term that covers this is gross negligence, which is defined by the Legal Information Institute as: “A lack of care that demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety. It is more than simple inadvertence, and can affect the amount of damages.”

    By contrast, negligence is simple inadvertence, the failure to use ordinary care. Obviously, firing a gun randomly would be gross negligence, since it demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others. Drunk driving could also be gross negligence. Not paying attention would be simple inadvertence.

  • LazyReader

    Ford’s optional crows nest

  • SF Guest

    From KPIX 5 which supports citing Officer Gina Tepoorten’s statement Mayor Liccardo hit the SUV after the SUV cutoff Mayor Liccardo:

    Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is the mayor’s friend and frequent bicycling companion. He spoke with the mayor’s wife this evening.

    “A car cut him off and caused a collision,” said Giardino. “From what I understand, the mayor sustained a few fractures including a fracture to his sternum. He’s pretty banged up and bruised up, but he’s in great spirits.”

    According to neighbors, the mayor was riding his bike along the bike path on Mabury Road when suddenly, an SUV darted across his path on Salt Lake Drive. The mayor smashed right into the car.

    Quoting Brian Wedemeier who implies this is a street infrastructure failure whereas it is a motorist who failed to spot a cyclist and cut off the cyclist making a right turn after stopping at a stop sign:

    “This collision only emphasizes the need for Bay Area cities like San Jose and San Francisco that have committed to Vision Zero to work urgently to improve safety on our streets in 2019.”

  • Stuart

    I think the term that covers this is gross negligence

    You’re moving the bar here. You started with:

    Yes, it was an “accident” […] unless the motorist intended to hit the mayor.

    Now you’re bringing in other legal terminology, which isn’t really relevant to the question of general usage of the word “accident”, nor to the dictionary definition of “accident” you quoted. The bottom line is that the definition you chose to make your point has two key components (“unexpectedly and unintentionally”) and you’re acting like it only has one (“unintentionally”).

    Calling it Orwellian to place a different amount of importance on one or the other of those two components is really hyperbolic. (Especially since it seems like you yourself are hedging here on drunk driving, even though a drunk driver wouldn’t have intended to hit the mayor, and therefore wouldn’t seem to meet your supposedly unambiguous and universal definition of what “accident” means.)

  • Stuart

    You’re moving the bar here. You started with:

    Yes, it was an “accident” […] unless the motorist intended to hit the mayor.

    Now you’re bringing in legal terminology that’s not relevant to how people generally use the word “accident”, nor its dictionary definition. The bottom line is that the definition you chose to make your point has two important components (“unexpectedly and unintentionally”) and you’re acting like it only has one (“unintentionally”).

    Placing different amounts of importance on one or the other of those components is hardly “Orwellian”. (Especially since you yourself seem to be hedging on drunk driving, even though a drunk driver wouldn’t have intended to hit the mayor, which is what you were asserting is the deciding factor in the unambiguous and universal meaning of “accident”)

  • Where the “RichLL Commentary Track” when you need it?

  • @p_chazz – So what does it mean to you when a lawyer tries to sway a jury with a tautology: “Sometimes an accident is just that: an accident?”

  • George Joseph Lane

    “It’s kind of Orwellian to change the meaning of words to suit your political purpose, however noble your intentions”

    I agree, it’s completely Orwellian for you to use a legalese definition of accident rather than the common usage to suit your political purpose.

  • Wallaby

    No, you are the one over-complicating things. The ordinary use of the word “accident” is any incident that was not deliberate or intended. That has little to do with blame or fault, which is a separate issue.

    The counter-intuitive use of the word “accident” that you are trying to promote is ideological and biased. You want society to view drivers as some kind of malicious class of people who are grievously and callously mowing down cyclists. When in reality drivers are always trying to avoid collisions. It’s just that sometimes they make a mistake, which is why all insurance companies offer “accident forgiveness” clauses in their policies.

    The remedy for someone harmed in an accident is civil, not criminal, in almost all cases. Society and the voters see little merit in throwing drivers in prison for genuine errors.

    This misuse of language is common with political correctness, where words and phrases are hijacked, distorted and co-opted to try and further an ideological goal.

    This was an accident because the driver could not see the cyclist. And according to some sources the cyclist hit the vehicle and not the other way about. Which sounds like there was a failure of visual acuity by both parties.

  • Wallaby

    Juries decide such matters all the time, and rarely judge that a driver is a criminal because he made a simple error. Accidents happen.

    Why do you think your beliefs on this subject are so at odds with what society as a whole thinks?

  • Wallaby

    Except that “car accident” is in common usage and is the preferred term.

    To suggest that a driver deliberately killed a cyclist just because he was technically at fault for a mistake is Orwellian in the extreme, which is why courts of law do not accept such distorted attempts at logic.

  • Wallaby

    Seems to me that neither party saw the other. Assuming the car and bike vectors were perpendicular then the cyclist riding into the side of the vehicle is indicative that the cyclist did not see the vehicle as well as that the driver did not see the cyclist.

    Put another way, the vehicle has a vector of zero relative to the path of the cyclist, who was presumably riding at a speed that would have made it impossible to stop had ANY obstacle presented itself in front of him. As it happened it was a car, but it could have been a dog, a child, a distracted pedestrian or some unobserved object in his path.

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that you only need 20/40 vision to get a DL, whilst cyclists face no vision tests at all. So particularly as people age they are cycling or driving with vision at only half the acuity of average vision.

    In Florida you can drive with 20/70 vision. And with lower vision it is particularly hard to see color, movement, or objects in the peripheral field of vision. And that is before distractions that further impair acuity.

  • Wallaby

    Everyone else here posts on the topic. and adds value and meaning.

    All you have is personal attacks? Really?

  • p_chazz

    No, not a legalese definition. It’s the common dictionary definition.

  • p_chazz

    Only to clarify something that is being deliberately blurred by the folks who want to stop using the word “accident” to denote something that is exactly that. An accident is something that was done without intent.
    It can still be negligent or grossly negligent.

  • p_chazz

    The lawyer is trying to convince the jury that someone who causes an accident is blameless on that account. I don’t think this is the case. However, I think that causing an accident only means that it was done without malice, forethought or intent. An unintentional action can still cause harm, and the person may be civilly or criminally liable, if they were negligent or grossly negligent.

  • Colby Spath

    not paying attention when operating a 4,000 lb motor vehicle at high rates of speed is “gross negligence”…

  • p_chazz

    It would be nice if everyone did everything perfectly every time, but people are fallible. They make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes cause harm to others. While it is expected that people will exercise due care, a momentary distraction that causes an accident is a long way from reckless disregard. The person who causes an accident may be anywhere from 0 to 100 percent liable, depending on the type and degree of negligence on their part that caused the accident. And we have a civil and criminal justice system to determine these factors, and we require motorists to carry insurance policies.

    I don’t think that demonizing people who cause accidents is productive. We should work on preventing them instead. My friend just bought a high-end BMW that has motion detectors. When the sensors detect movement that might be a pedestrian or animal about to enter the roadway, it alerts the driver. This is the way to go.

  • thielges

    Yeah, I’d chime in if I had the energy. Instead I just treat Wallaby/RichLL like an old sitcom. Just sit back and enjoy the entertainment. It is particularly funny how he pretends to not understand why his irrelevant victim blaming comments like this one are so ridiculous and then doubles down with deflection and distraction while trying to maintain a patina of sincerity.

  • SF Guest

    Why were all of @Wallaby’s comments deleted? I didn’t notice any inappropriate profanity or racial slurs.

  • thielges

    Probably because he’s a troll, just arguing for the sake of being right. His comments are a distraction which dilute and degrade the discussion.

  • SF Guest

    Here’s SF Streetsblog policy:

    We may edit or delete ad hominem attacks, unnecessary or uncreative profanity, off-topic posts, lengthy or poorly written rants, flat-earth arguments and comments that we feel don’t add any real value to the conversation that’s underway. Banning commenters or other actions will only occur in case of repeated offenses or a truly awful and unredeemable comment.

  • Stuart

    a momentary distraction that causes an accident is a long way from reckless disregard

    Do you think that all the reporters calling this, and all the other collisions that happen, “accidents”, know which was involved in each case before calling it an accident? If not, what’s the big deal with using a more neutral term like collision, that doesn’t presuppose that the driver want doing something that made the collision expected?

    And we have a civil and criminal justice system to determine these factors

    That’s true of firearms-related injuries and deaths too, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t insist that reporters call every one of them a “firearm accident” until it had gone through the court system.

    I don’t think that demonizing people

    Ah yes, the terrible demonization of calling two things colliding a collision. It’s truly inhuman.

  • Sounds more like a “RichLL Laugh Track” to me. 😉

  • @p_chazz – Using the term to refer to a collision suggests lack of intent when that fact is not known. We get news reports of road rage incidents causing collisions that are called “accidents.” When Rueben Espinoza murdered my friend Chris Robertson, then jumped out of his truck to challenge anyone else to take him on, that was called an “accident.” It’s the wrong word because it’s not neutral, and it is so easily and unthinkingly misused.

    Also, most “accidents” are the result of deliberate choices made to pilot a vehicle less safely. That’s not “intent” to cause a collision, but in terms of culpability, it is an intent to risk the lives and well-being of others.

  • @p_chazz – According to a real dictionary (the OED), the etymology of this sense of the word comes from railroading, due to the fact that trains don’t have the ability to stop very quickly and are on fixed rails. Thus were some collisions unpreventable.

    When cars first hit the scene and were exclusively operated by the wealthy, the wealthy adopted the word in the 1910s to exonerate their behavior. Never mind that cars can generally stop in time if at a reasonable speed (especially given the very low speed limits then) and are not on any fixed guideway.

    It was a misappropriation of a term based on the opposite of the term’s purpose. Who’s being Orwellian again?

  • p_chazz

    If you really want to delve into the etymology of the word “accident”, according to Etymology Online, it comes from the Old French. “accident” which means “an occurrance, incident event which comes by chance.” That in turn came from the Latin “accidentem” which means “an occurrence, chance, misfortune.” which makes my point.

  • @p_chazz – The word’s meaning is not in dispute, it is its application to car collisions that is. The “by chance” part of the meaning is not necessarily true.

  • George Joseph Lane

    Actually that makes my point, p_chazz

    That definition removes agency. Common use removes agency.

  • p_chazz

    It’s the job of the prosecuting attorney to prove intent, not the other way around. A person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty.

    And how is a “deliberate choice” not “intent”? You are really splitting hairs here. As I mentioned earlier, gross negligence would apply in the case of someone who behaved in willfully reckless manner that caused harm to someone else.

  • p_chazz

    Not agency, intent.

  • thielges

    From this article: https://www.bicycling.com/news/a25734997/sam-liccardo-bike-crash/

    “Police said Sam Liccardo, 48, was riding eastbound in a bike lane on Mabury Road, a thoroughfare northeast of the city’s downtown, when a driver in a 2002 Toyota Highlander cut him off. The driver, heading southbound on Salt Lake Drive, briefly stopped at a stop sign and then turned directly into the path of Liccardo, who didn’t have time to stop or swerve, according to a police spokesperson.”

    Looks like the root cause was haste. Spending another second or two to look for cross traffic would have avoided the collision.

  • SF Guest

    It’s very possible ‘haste’ was the root cause, but in many instances drivers do not look out for pedestrians or cyclists in crosswalks and only focus on larger objects such as vehicles. That’s why making eye contact is a wise safety measure. If you cant make eye contact proceed with caution and don’t assume the motor vehicle will yield to your right-of-way.

  • George Joseph Lane

    Ok, you continue with your totally unique interpretation of a word, I’ll continue in reality.

  • Taurussf

    Yeah, but it didn’t come about “by chance”

    Someone did a thing. That thing led to the Mayor getting hit by a car. It might have been unintentional, but for it to happen, somebody had to break the law. That makes it, not an accident.

  • p_chazz

    Do what you need to do!

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